(Photo credit: Russian Ministry of Defense)
An underground air base recently unveiled by Iran will be able to accommodate advanced Russian warplanes, according to an analysis of satellite images conducted by the New York Times (NYT).
According to the US outlet, satellite images from the base codenamed ‘Eagle 44’ show an at-scale model of the Russian Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet, which Iranian officials said last month would be delivered soon to the Islamic Republic.
“The Sukhoi 35 fighter jets will arrive in Iran at the beginning of next year,” Shahriar Heydari, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, told media in January, referring to the start of Nowruz, the Iranian new year, which begins on 21 March.
Iran has yet to acquire any new combat aircraft since it purchased a few Russian MiG-29 Fulcrum fighter jets in the 1990s.
Another clue cited by the NYT is a poster showing the silhouettes of fighter jets “in the shape of a state-of-the-art military jet that Iran currently doesn’t possess.”
“The tactical airbase can accommodate and prepare various aircraft, including fighter jets, bombers, and unmanned aerial vehicles, for missions … The underground base consists of various sections, such as an alert area, command post, warplane hangars, repair and maintenance center, navigation and airport equipment, and fuel tanks,” Tasnim News Agency reported on 7 February.
According to examinations of archival satellite images by the NYT, the Eagle 44 base started being built in August 2013, while construction of the airstrip didn’t begin until May 2021.
Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Iran and Russia have significantly deepened their cooperation ties to overcome unilateral western sanctions and counter the US hegemonic power.
Washington has described this alliance as “harmful.” In December, White House spokesman John Kirby said that “these fighter planes would significantly strengthen Iran’s Air Force relative to its regional neighbors.”